Dezeen Magazine

Santa Monica Linear by Phillip K Smith III with engineering by SOM

SOM and Phillip K Smith III install light-up mirrored sculpture in Santa Monica

Global design firm Skidmore Owings and Merril collaborated with American artist Phillip K Smith III to create Santa Monica Linear, a mirrored glass installation that lights up at night.

Santa Monica Linear sits on a sloping landscaped site on the grounds of a house designed by celebrated Californian modernist Ray Kappe.

SOM and Phillip K Smith III collaborte on sculpture
Santa Monica Linear is 30 feet long

Made of steel and glass, the 30-foot-long (nine metres) artwork is a horizontal slash that reflects the sky and trees.

At night, LEDs turn it into a shifting light display that echoes the famous sunset of the beachfront California town.

Santa Monica Linear is a mirrored sculpture in California
Its mirrored surface reflects the sky and surrounding plants

Architect-turned-artist Phillip K Smith III worked with SOM's director of structural engineering Eric Long to design the site-specific piece and install it on a steep-sided hill.

"The simplicity of Smith's concept and beauty of the site posed direct challenges to the perfect implementation of the artwork," said SOM.

"Of particular importance was the 42-degree sloped site and the necessity of the 30-foot-long mirrored plane to be a perfectly level extruded form, free from internal structural elements."

LED screen of Santa Monica Linear
An LED screen displays shifting colours

During the day, the mirrored surface reflects the light and scenery. As night falls, the LED display shows a shifting array of light and colour like an artificial sky.

"At sunset, the reflection of the glowing sky and onshore moving clouds merges with floating, shifting gradients of light across the surface of the work," said Phillip K Smith III.

Sculpture in California that lights up with LEDs at ight
A red haze echoes the coastal sunset

Mirrored projects often raise concerns about birds flying into them, but the artist said that its positioning means it poses no risk to wildlife.

"Bird strikes are not an issue as the piece," Phillip K Smith III told Dezeen.

"[The piece] reflects the sky in the midst of a wall of green landscape. Bird strikes are issues for skyscrapers, where the sky is reflected adjacent to real sky."

Santa Monica Linear sits amongst lush planting and tall eucalyptus trees, bracketed by an early Skyspace chamber by the artist James Turrell and a 40-foot-tall (12 metres) piece by the sculptor Nancy Rubins.

Santa Monica is a beachfront city in Los Angeles county, California. Local architecture includes this cactus-filled greenhouse by Part Office and the headquarters of Gwyneth Paltrow's lifestyle brand Goop.

Santa Monica Linear by Phillip K Smith III
Phillip K Smith III is an artist that trained as an architect

Smith grew up in Palm Springs, California, and trained as an architect at Rhode Island School of Design before becoming an artist.

His previous works include mirrored posts installed along Laguna Beach, a wall of mirrors in an Italian piazza and a light-up skybridge in Detroit.

Photography is by Lance Gerber Studio.

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